Jill Hurst-Wahl, Associate Professor of Practice and Director of the Library and Information Science Program at the School of Information Studies (iSchool) was recently featured in an episode of the podcast series ‘Beyond the Book.’
The podcast series is hosted by the Copyright Clearance Center and explores issues facing the information content industry and helps creative professionals understand copyright protection matters.
Hurst-Wahl discusses the emerging trends of what she calls ‘library deserts’ across the United States. These library deserts are areas of the country where there isn't an available public library within a reasonable distance. She first became interested in the topic following a blog post published by the iSchool’s online program last fall, outlining the ranking of libraries by country around the world.
“I was dismayed when I realized where the United States ranked on this list,” said Hurst-Wahl. “We ranked 62nd on the list. There are over 119,000 libraries in the country, and that seems like a lot, but when you compare that number to other things, it’s not so many.”
Hurst-Wahl noted that she often hears a statistic touting that there are more libraries in the U.S. than there are McDonald’s restaurants.
“That statistic gets thrown out frequently because it surprises everyone,” Hurst-Wahl tells podcast host Chris Kenneally. “The McDonald’s are so visible. We have them in our towns and cities, in our airports, in our malls. And that’s not where libraries are. Libraries are often in the central part of a city or a town on a main road, but sometimes not. Sometimes they’re kind of tucked away in some place where there is land available. They don’t always have flashy signage or have arrows pointing out where they are.
Hurst-Wahl argues that libraries should be more visible, and moved to central parts of the community.
“We should think about placing libraries in more high-traffic areas,” she explains. “Why not have libraries in malls, in airports, in train stations, in places where people are congregating and where they have extra time and might be interested in borrowing a book?”